DOWNERS GROVE – Arian Toney rushed for a pair of 3-yard gains on Hinsdale South’s scoring drive late in Friday’s game.
That may not sound like much, but for the senior it meant the world.
Toney had a breakout junior season, rushing for 1,145 yards, 6.33 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns as the Hornets qualified for the playoffs. A Lisfranc fracture in his foot kept him out of all but the final two games this season, and though he was limited in both games, just pulling the Hornets’ black and gold jersey over his shoulder pads created an indescribable feeling.
“It means the world to me, man,” Toney said. “Just to put on this jersey and be out here with my buddies one last time, that was something. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys.”
Toney injured his foot during summer camp and was hoping to return by the middle of the season, but recovery from Lisfranc fractures can sometimes take months.
As it was, Toney said he was only at about 75 percent the last two weeks of the season, but both he and Hinsdale South coach Mike Barry thought he was ready to test his foot as the Hornets were in the hunt for a playoff spot until Friday’s 34-7 loss to Downers Grove South.
“I wasn’t begging,” Toney said of returning to game action. “[Coach Barry] knew what I could handle. He knew what I could do. The last two weeks of practice he got a feel for what I could do and he gave me what I could handle.”
“I promised him I’d try to get him in there,” Barry said. “He’s been such an inspirational leader for us all season.”
Unfortunately for Toney and the Hornets, the season ended Friday as the loss dropped their record to 4-5 and eliminated them from playoff contention. The host Mustangs led 34-0 before a late touchdown run by Jake Czajkowski put the Hornets on the scoreboard.
“We lost to a good team,” Barry said. “Downers South deserved to win the conference and deserved to make the playoffs based on their performance. They’re a good team.”
Last Friday’s loss stung for a Hornets team hoping for another playoff berth, but Barry and his players were able to find the silver lining.
“The way we started 0-3, it’s amazing how our team came back,” senior defensive lineman Antanas Riskus said. “What stood out to me was Arian got hurt, [quarterback] Robbie [Regan] got hurt, and not one time did anyone hang their heads. There wasn’t one person sulking saying, ‘Oh, Robbie’s out. Arian’s out.’ We just played through it. That’s what this team is all about to me. You couldn’t ask for a better group of guys.”
“Before the season we thought we could be competitive, and when we lost our quarterback and our running back, the guys responded well,” Barry added.
“We were in a position to make the playoffs and be conference champions. We were in position to reach our goals in the final game of the season, and that’s all you can ask for.”